Noel in Britain

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LookAtMe

Senior Member
Italian
The stage background wall of the show "Live at the Apollo" broadcast tonight by tv channel BBC 2 read: "Noel at the Apollo".
At the end of a tv advertisement for the supermarket chain Sainsbury's currently being shown on private British tv networks we read the word "Noel".
It seems that the word "Christmas" is being gradually replaced by "Noel".
Why is that? Is this because "Christmas" refers to Christ and Christianity which might upset people of other religions, whereas "Noel" has a more neutral feel?
Or is there another explanation?
 
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  • Trochfa

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    I agree with Hermione. It is synonymous with Christmas. There is a very traditional carol sung at this time of the year called "The First Nowell (Noel)". I don't think it's replacing the word "Christmas" at all. It's been used frequently on cards, signs, adverts and radio and television programmes for much longer than I can remember.

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    This entry says that this version of the carol was first published in 1823.
    The First Noel - Wikipedia



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    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    Lookatme,

    "Noel" is not replacing "Christmas". Maybe you are noticing "Noel" more lately. Both words have been used for hundreds of years.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    It seems that the word "Christmas" is being gradually replaced by "Noel".
    No. You have received the wrong impression.

    The history of the word is interesting. According to the OED, Nowell is first recorded in Norman-French as an interjection: "a shout of joy, originally to commemorate the birth of Christ" - it had no meaning. Nowell and Noel were then used (very rarely and by association) in England to mean the feast of Christmas. (The former spelling is now considered obsolete.) This use lasted until about the 16th century

    In the late 18th century, the word "noël" (taken directly from French) appeared in England and was used to describe "1786 T. Busby Compl. Dict. Music Noels, certain canticles, or songs of joy, formerly sung at Christmas in the country churches in France."

    In 1953, noël is again used (somewhat poetically) to refer to the feast of Christmas. 1953 K. Tynan Let. 19 Dec. (1994) iii. 199 "Thank you again, and a joyous noël."
     
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    exgerman

    Senior Member
    NYC
    English but my first language was German
    This is an example of the Recency Illusion, when something we've been hearing (or seeing) all our lives suddenly becomes noticed and our conscious mind is convinced that we've never heard or seen it before.
     

    LookAtMe

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Thank you so much for your very interesting replies.
    Back in the 90s I went to London and lived there for 12 years. I cannot remember seeing or hearing, then, the word Noel as often as I'm seeing it this year. Now I thought it's just British political correctness going...furtherly...mad.
    How curious and intriguing the Recency Illusion theory is! and yes, it may explain I have indeed received the wrong impression and it's all just my fault.
     
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